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Gaining insight into the dynamics of drug-cancer cell interactions with the aid of continuous and hybrid multiscale models


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mathematics and Physics and will be supervised by Dr Marianna Cerasuolo, Dr Jamie Foster and Dr Andrew Burbanks.

The work on this project will:
-develop and validate continuum and hybrid mathematical models to gain insights into the interplay between newly discovered drugs and PCa cells
-focus on representing mathematically different-scales mechanisms that contribute towards drug resistance in cancer
-Involve analytical and numerical study of the dynamical systems as well as the statistical comparison between numerical simulations and experimental data



Project description
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most common cause of cancer among men worldwide. Advances in screening and diagnosis have allowed detection of the disease in early stages. However, for late-stage disseminated diseases current therapies are merely palliative. Historically, treatment for metastatic prostate cancer was limited to androgen deprivation therapy, by which the patients invariably developed castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Recent interdisciplinary studies emphasized the need to evaluate new therapeutic strategies to control PCa dynamics and the onset of drug-resistance; and current experimental evidence suggest that multi-drugs therapy is the way to succeed. Experimental frameworks based on the combination of biology/chemistry and mathematics have become increasingly common in cancer research, and the use of continuum and discrete-continuum hybrid models has proved to have a great potential in suggesting and designing new personalised therapeutic strategies.

The aim of this project is to develop and validate continuum and hybrid mathematical models to gain insights into the interplay between newly discovered drugs and PCa cells. These tools will help understanding how the drug-cells interaction can affect the dynamics of the tumour growth and, at the same time, will allow to explore the effectiveness of different therapeutic strategies. In particular the project will focus on representing mathematically different-scales mechanisms that contribute towards drug resistance in cancer; and cells metabolic changes during treatments and the impact of such changes on cancer behaviour. The analytical and numerical study of the dynamical systems as well as the statistical comparison between numerical simulations and experimental data will also be part of the project.
Candidates should ideally have previous experience in mathematics applied to biology. However, the successful candidate will receive training in all relevant areas and have the opportunity to learn new skills in applied mathematics, cancer modelling, data analysis and computer programming. The student will also have access to a large number of training resources available through the Graduate School at the University of Portsmouth including those geared toward improving presentation skills, time-management, project organization skills, thesis writing, data analysis and statistics, and other various related training modules.


Entry Requirements

General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class
or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering or Computer Science and have a genuine interest in Biomedical Sciences. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
Previous research experience in applied mathematics, computational biology or computer programming is welcome.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Marianna Cerasuolo () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Mathematics and Physics’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code MPHY4450219 when applying.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19). The Faculty of Technology may fund project costs/consumables up to £1,500 p.a.

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